Book Bag, Reading Response, & Integrate

Have you heard of the Reading Highway?  It is an easy way to integrate social studies with reading.
Do you have a packed schedule this year?  Integrating my curriculum is one of the best ways I  have found to deal with the "too much curriculum and not enough time to teach it" problem.

Social studies is an easy subject to integrate with reading when your students are on the Reading Highway.  Set up a map like the one in the picture.  Give students a small picture of a vehicle to show on the map the setting of the book they are reading for Daily 5, SSR, D.E.A.R. time, or reading homework. 
There are many different ways to organize your class library.  You can pull some of the books from your collection and put them in regions of the United States (setting of the book).  Your students will soon begin to notice more (social studies) details in the story such as climate, landforms, etc.

Students can record the books they read on the book logs that are organized by regions of the United States, too.

Do you send home book bags?  This is a great way to engage students and parents in reading.  You can start small and have a few book bags that you send home to students once a month.  Example if you have 24 students, organize 6 bags.  Each week send home the book bags to 6 students.  Students will quickly learn if their assigned week is the first week of the month, second week of the month, 3rd or 4th week of the month.  

Book bags can have a theme or subject matter like the one in the picture.  These books are social studies topics.  I found the bags in Target Dollar spot.  Quick and easy way to integrate social studies and reading homework.

You can hold students accountable with their reading and integrate that with social studies using the Reading Highway forms above.  You can use these with the book bags, reading homework, Daily 5, literacy center, or other reading work.

Do you use morning messages?  Your students can learn facts about states while completing their morning work.  These are a good extension when your class is researching the states. Morning Message - Facts about States

What are the best book choices?  Biographies and Magic Tree House books are easy books to find the setting of the stories.  I have a Pinterest board with book lists and links to books set in states.

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Reading, Writing, & Books

Have you read the research about the benefits of students taking notes by hand instead of electronically? Taking notes by hand engages the brain, more which increases comprehension and retention.

This research was not a surprise to me.  I found that my students' reading skills improved when my writing lessons became more structured.  I integrated writing with my lessons which is good but was not structured enough.  Through trial and error, I found two systems that worked for me.


Morning Messages, which are differentiated are a great way to start your day.  You can read more about my morning routine and get free samples with this post.


Home journals are a great way to get parents involved.  Your students and parents will love to see the writing progress through the year.  It makes a great keepsake, too!  You can read more about my Editable Home Journal program on this post.


Netflix, Grading, and Tips

Grading papers is like laundry, a never ending task.  If you skip a week, the stack gets bigger and more overwhelming.  I have found a few things that help me tackle tasks that are less-than-fun, especially when you are doing it on the weekend.

Cool supplies can make the job more fun.  Scratch 'n sniff stickers, sparkly stickers, stamps, and different markers and pens will make your go time go by quicker.  Follow my FB page the week this post is published because I plan to give away a box of markers, pens, stickers, and stamps to one of my followers.

Do you have students that rush through their work and make careless mistakes.  Staple a "speeding ticket" on their paper.  Parents seeing the speeding ticket and students redoing their assignment should help with this problem.

Encourage top quality work by showing your students what you consider high quality work. One easy way to display work is using the twine with clothes pins that is shown in the picture above.  I purchased this at Christmas time.  It was supposed to be used to hang up greeting cards.  Teachers can repurpose it to display students' work.

You can also motivate students by stapling a reward to an assignment that is top quality.  The banana bucks are easy to attach and fun to use if you have a jungle, zoo, or monkey theme.
Put on comfy clothes and binge watch your favorite shows will make your time go by quicker.  The following are some of my favorite shows to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime:
  • Cover Affairs
  • Hunted
  • The Cleaner
  • Homeland
  • The Americans
  • The Unit
  • Madam Secretary
  • Scandal
  • The Closer
  • The Guardian
  • The Glades
  • The Good Wife
  • Blue Bloods
  • Brotherhood
  • Lie to Me
  • Graceland
  • House
  • Blacklist
  • Chicago Code
  • Legends
Do you have a favorite show(s) to watch when you grade papers?

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Brag Tags, Movement, 5 Senses, and Emojis

Emojis, emojis, emjois . . . everywhere you look are emojis! I found these two emoji pillows at a party supply store for $3. I thought they could be used in the classroom. Teachers can:

  • Choose 2 students who are good listeners during circle time to hold the emojis. 
  • Play the quiet game during inside recess. Choose one girl and one boy to lead the game. The girl will choose a quiet girl to give the emoji pillow to, switch seats, and the new girl will walk around looking for another quiet girl. Boys will do the same thing with the boy emoji pillow - if you have 2 pillows. 

Build a positive community with brag tags. You can reward your:

Super Student
Helpful Chum
Positive Pal
Whiz Kid
Hard Worker

I just added colorful and blackline brag tags to my Behavior 101 and my Bundle. If you already purchased one of those, you may go to "my purchases" to download it again to get the new pages for free.

Have you been to Target Dollar Spot lately? I found these emoji sticky flags and notes this week. These would be perfect for writing notes to your students.

Do you want a challenge? See how many lessons or activities you can incorporate the sense of smell. I found the smelly things in the picture at Wal-Mart.

Markers: Add to your writing center. Students can use the markers to highlight or circle the vowels, blends, or other skills that you are working on.
Mini-pens: Add these to your word work center for scent-sational work!
Lipgloss: You can put a dot of smelly gloss on the back of students' hands when you catch them with "scent-sational behavior".

Do you have a wiggly class this year? It helps if you can give them opportunities to get up and move. One way you can do this is with a reward system. I found this bee bowl at Safeway. You can set this up as a team point system, class system, or do it for individuals who need to move more. When you catch a team, class, or individual following the rules choose a student to put a flower in the bee bowl.

I love using a variety of sounds to manage movement. Keep a small bell like the one in the picture at your reading table. You can:

  • Ring the bell once if your students' noise is too loud. 
  • Ring the bell twice if it is time to switch. 
  • Ring the bell 3 times when it is time to clean up. 
How do you manage your students' behavior?

The forms from this post can be found:

(click below)

Behavior 101

Busy Teacher Forms

Bundle - Save money

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Sort, Patterns,Graphing, and Fairy Tales

If you have taught for a few years, you probably have a few extra sets of calendar numbers, candles, and other small pictures like the ones above.  You might even be missing pieces from a set or not have enough for your current class.  Not a problem!

Gather a variety of small pictures like the ones in the picture.  I organized mine in a small plastic container with drawers like the one in the first picture.  I also added other fun stuff students could use for making patterns or graphs such as stamps and BINGO daubers.
The best thing about this math station is that it is open-ended.  You can make this a permanent station.  Change the pictures or stamps in the drawer when the season or month changes.  

Do you have a science unit about the sun and moon?  You can integrate math with your science unit using this station.

You can also use this math station to enrich your fairy tale unit.  The "jewels" on the sorting page are plastic rocks from Dollar Tree.

Do you have a station that is set up permanently?

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Teaching on a Budget

If you are a new teacher or are getting ready to student teach, you are probably wondering how you will ever get all that you need to set up a classroom.  Most experienced teachers remember that feeling very well.

My first year of teaching was in a private school making $26,259.71 - using an inflation calculator to convert to today's money so you can have an idea of my salary.  My student loans were more than my salary, a car that was on its last mile, a newlywed, and I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  I was born with a rusty spoon!  So, there was very little to spend on setting up my classroom.

When you have very little to spend, it takes some creativity and work on your part to get the most out of what you do have to spend.  In case you can relate to my first year of teaching, I thought I'd share a few of the things I found that stretched my money.

Drawer liner is an easy way to add color to your classroom and make it look cohesive.  I bought the roll in the picture at the Target Dollar Spot for $3.  You can use it to cover a wide range of things that you use in the classroom.  A tomato sauce can is the perfect size to hold crayons at your reading table.  Be sure to fold the drawer liner over the top so it will cover the sharp edges.

There is something magical about the power of a can of spray paint.  It can turn something headed for the trash dump into a sparkly "new found" treasure.  Best of all, you can use the paint color to pull your room together.  Use the color to enhance your theme and set the tone of your room.  I have a Pinterest board that has more ideas about this topic.  Follow the board because I plan to add more ideas to it before school begins.

It is very easy to see all of the Back to School sale flyers and feel like you need to stock up on everything under the sun.  Remember a few things:
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if your students will bring school supplies.  If so, ask for a copy of the supply list.  Not all of your students will bring 100% of the supplies, but this will give you a place to start.
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if the school will provide any type of budget and/or supplies.  If so, find out the details.  
    • Are you responsible for ordering the supplies?
    • Do you get the supplies from a central supply closet?
    • Is there a procedure for doing this?
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if the P.T.A. / P.T.O. (parent-teacher association / organization) provides funds for classroom teachers.  If so, ask for the details.
    • When do teachers get the funds?
    • Are the funds given to the team or individual teachers?
    • Are teachers given a lump sum amount of money?
    • Are teachers expected to purchase the supplies first and wait to be reimbursed?
  • Are you interested in writing a proposal for Donor's Choose? Ask your administrator before you begin.
  • Does your school have a community (company) partner that provides needed supplies?  
  • Are there funds for new teachers?  Some principals set aside funds to help new teachers.
  • School counselors will often have extra supplies for students who do not have resources to purchase them.
One of my favorite places to find supplies is thrift stores.  I find bags of goodies like the ones in picture above.  I assume a retired teacher donated them.  I find many staplers, tape dispensers, 3 hole paper punch there, too. 

My former school's P.T.A. made a giant wishing well out of butcher paper and hung it near the office.  The P.T.A. asked teachers and staff members to put post-its notes with our name and items we "wished" we had.  One item per post-it so parents who wanted to be our fairy godparents could take the post-it off the well and purchase the needed resource.  This prevented duplicates.  We were asked to vary the price range of what we "wished" for - something that parents could supply for free or very little (toilet paper rolls or egg cartons) to something a little pricey like an electric pencil sharpener.  
I made a sign you can hang or put on your table at Back to School Night.  There is also a list of items that you can use or you could try the post-it system like my P.T.A.  Sometimes I wait to do this at Parent-Teacher Conferences because parents are a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the year.  

Click here to download the Wishing Well sign.

Do you have any tips for teaching on a budget? 

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Goal Setting and Behavior Incentives

Back to school means time to teach your new class your rules and procedures. Do you use brag tags? You can use brag tags to motivate your students. You can incorporate goal setting along with these procedures and use brag tags as a reward.

Introduce the goal (procedure) to your class. In the picture is a desk goal sign. Have students model what the goal looks or acts like.
There are also blank goal signs so you can personalize them to fit your class needs. Later in the year, you may want to revisit this when your student begin falling out of their chairs, rocking back in their chairs, not pushing their chairs in, or have messy desks. Goal setting can be used throughout the year to fine-tune expectations.
Attach brag tags to popsicle stick or tongue depressor. Use these during your lessons when a student needs a reminder of the goal. These make great visual cues.
There are different ways you can display brag tags. Hang brag tags on curtains rings like the ones in the picture above. I hung them on a push pin with a hook. Above the hook is students' assigned number. This is a easy display to make. You can buy 24 metal shower curtain rings for $1 at Dollar Tree. If you use calendar numbers instead of names you can use this same bulletin board every year.
Do you get a sad report when you pick your class up at specials or lunch? Attach a brag tag or two to your clipboard. I'm sure the teacher or support staff holding up one of these will motivate your students to show positive behavior.
How do you store your brag tags? There are many different ways: tool box, notebox, or in ziplock bags like the picture above. You can punch a hole in the corner and connect the bags with a ring.
Would you like to see more about this?

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Value in Observations: Student Teachers and Veterans

Many first year teachers, are surprised at the number of details their cooperating teacher had taken care of, without their knowledge, while they were a student teacher. These details make themselves known during the first year on the job. New teachers usually find out about these forgotten details at the most inconvenient times their first year.

Teacher preparation programs vary from college to college and state to state. First year teachers will never feel completely prepared for all of the duties and details that a teaching job includes, but I do think there are some lessons that should be included with all teacher preparation programs.


Future teachers need to have hours in the trenches - real classrooms - every semester of college. Don't wait to observe classrooms a semester or two before student teaching. Students interested in becoming teachers should take an introduction to education class their freshman year. This class should include at least 10 hours of observation in a classroom. It would be helpful if the observation were divided into 5 hours in a primary class and 5 hours in an intermediate grade classroom for elementary majors. Having field based experiences each semester has many benefits:

Students will get a first hand view of what the job of a teacher is like on a day-to-day basis. Is this something they want to do? It is much better to decide this is not the job for them instead of after investing three years of program. Students may feel pressured to complete a program that isn't right for them if the observations occur later in the program. Teaching is hard enough when you have a passion for the job.
Many teachers will give college students copies of the lesson that they observe. This is a great way to begin their teacher files.
Future teachers never know what grade they will teach some day.
Teachers often switch grade levels during the first few years of their career. Having materials that include a wide range of grade levels will be very helpful.
These activities will be useful to help students in their future class who are working below or above grade level.

Other countries support their teachers by giving them time to observe their colleagues. These countries realize there is value in seeing work in action. To watch a teacher at your school or in your district teach the curriculum that you're teaching has real valuable.

I was fortunate to work for an administrator who believed in this. We had recently adopted new curriculum and was a little stressed about it. He arranged substitutes for us and spoke to another administrator so we could observe a team at another school. Each of us observed a different teacher for half a day. The colleagues were nice enough to answer our questions during their prep periods. Then we went back to our school and met for half a day to discuss what we observed.

Guess what all of us were looking for in these observations? We wanted to see the organization and classroom management of the new curriculum.

  • How did the teachers organize the materials? 
  • How did the teacher distribute materials? 
  • How did they decide what to take a grade on? 
We were all veteran teachers yet gained so much from observing our colleagues. Doesn't it make sense that future teachers would gain just as much if not more from doing similar observations?
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